Penn State "COMB" project posts Dec 2019 update
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  1. #1
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    Default Penn State "COMB" project posts Dec 2019 update

    The COMB project colocates 12 hives, 4 each in a "Conventional", "Organic Acid" and "Chemical Free" management strategy, at the apiaries of participating beekeepers.

    The COMB project's researcher Dr. Robyn Underwood has posted a (rather skeletal) update.

    The key sentences: " Varroa mites were well controlled in CON and ORG colonies. They were much higher, beginning in late summer, in the CF colonies."

    "The overwintering losses in CON and ORG colonies were easily made up by splitting. Some CF colonies were able to be split, but there were not enough colonies made to completely make up for losses."
    " Going into the winter of 2019-2020, we have 218 colonies; 42 CF, 87 CON, and 89 ORG. We’re hoping for great survival!"

    In the fall of 2018 all colonies in the project were requeened with "feral, TF survivors" from a colony cut out of a house soffit in Jim Thorpe, PA. I find it important to note that these new queens swarmed prodigiously in 2019. "Despite our best efforts, only 11 PA colonies did not swarm. That means that only about 10% of the colonies made it through the season without a brood break."

    My comment: Feral bees have "reverted" to wild type, and swarm at the drop of a hat. This confers "fitness", swarming making up for the huge losses suffered by mite-ridden bees. It, however, complicates domestic management.


    Full progress report at: https://lopezuribelab.com/2019/11/25...ah-g2Vz2cq297g

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Penn State "COMB" project posts Dec 2019 update

    Thanks for sharing!
    "The amazing thing about the honey bee is not that she works, but that she works for others." St. John Chrysostom

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Penn State "COMB" project posts Dec 2019 update

    Interesting. Four hives is a rather small number to do a competent study with. I wonder what a more competent beekeeper could have done to prevent swarming. Old methods from the pre WWI days when bees where less Italian and more German might be usefull.

    Crazy Roland

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    Default Re: Penn State "COMB" project posts Dec 2019 update

    Noting that Roland is older than dirt if he remembers beekeeping from before 1914.

    Beekeepers exploited swarms to the maximum back then often doubling or tripling colony counts in a good year. This was the time period when swarm control methods were developed with Demaree and others publishing methods to prevent or manage swarming.

    I wonder if Walt Wright's comb management methods would have helped? I expect they could have benefited from obtaining queens that were known to have mite resistance instead of starting with commercial queens that definitely do not.

    A colony that swarms repeatedly and excessively will have low mite counts. Prevent that colony from swarming and you will usually get a very high mite count by fall.
    NW Alabama, 50 years, 20 colonies and growing, sideliner, treatment free since 2005, 14 frame square Dadant broodnest

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Penn State "COMB" project posts Dec 2019 update

    The study makes replicates of 4 hives (in each of the 3 managements) at many, many locations. So the total hive count is about 90 in each management, (though current survival is only 42 in the Treatment Free cohort).

    We don't know (and likely won't until publication) how much variation there is among the locations. The study recruited among experienced beekeepers already running one of the three managements, and we don't know if prior experience influences the survival (and likely will need to wait for publication).

    Any "n" number greater than 30 (per treatment). will yield good statistical confidence.

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Penn State "COMB" project posts Dec 2019 update

    Quote Originally Posted by Fusion_power View Post
    I expect they could have benefited from obtaining queens that were known to have mite resistance instead of starting with commercial queens that definitely do not.
    All hives in all treatments were requeened with queens produced by Devon Paderewski from a breeder queen in Jim Thorpe, PA in July and August, 2018. The breeder origin were wild bees in a house soffit for 4 years, removed and kept treatment free for 3 years. In a 7 year history, these bees have likely requeened multiple times, and hence are "feral". The apiary producing the queens advertises itself as treatment free (and its scale is backyard).

    The queens conform to the current "talking point" in the TF religion that bees must be "local and feral" in origin. I think that is nonsense, but the origin of the queens did not affect the Conventional and Organic survival, only huge mortality in the "Chemical Free".

    I maintain the differential survival of the "talking point" origin bees points to the utter vacuity of the "local and feral" obsession.

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Penn State "COMB" project posts Dec 2019 update

    current "talking point" in the TF religion that bees must be "local and feral" in origin
    IMO, this is not relevant. Bees may exhibit a range of mite resistance traits. Brood breaks are one of the traits. Swarming repetitively creates brood breaks. The two most effective mite resistance traits are VSH and mite mauling combined with allogrooming. I see no reason to expect that a colony that swarms repeatedly will do anything other than produce offspring that swarms repetitively.
    NW Alabama, 50 years, 20 colonies and growing, sideliner, treatment free since 2005, 14 frame square Dadant broodnest

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Penn State "COMB" project posts Dec 2019 update

    No, my memory does not extend back to pre WWI, our records date back to at least the late 1930s. We departed from Demaree to our present brood management system. I highly doubt that Walt's methods come close to what we can accomplish by moving brood around. We track our queens and hive population levels and see no significant level of swarming..

    Crazy, and not quite old as dirt, Roland

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Penn State "COMB" project posts Dec 2019 update

    Quote Originally Posted by JWChesnut View Post
    , but the origin of the queens did not affect the Conventional and Organic survival
    I don't see how one can draw that conclusion with out a test group of a different origin,
    From your link "After winter losses of 62.3% in the chemical free (CF) management system, 13.0% in the conventional (CON) management system, and 14.7% in the organic (ORG) management system"
    The BIB 5 year Average losses for Penn sideliners was 37.9% and commercial was 35.0% The comb bees had significantly better survival.

    Quote Originally Posted by JWChesnut View Post
    only huge mortality in the "Chemical Free".
    You can't throw a supposedly resistant queen in to colony in the fall and reasonably expect her genetics to turn the tide when they start emerging a mouth later. This years results should be enlightening, perhaps not much different, but a full year in the hive gives the genetics a fair shot and a clearer view
    as of now all we can say(with out fall mite numbers) is putting bees on small cell foundation didn't realy shift the losses VS the states 5 year Average for TF Sideliner losses of 60.9.

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Penn State "COMB" project posts Dec 2019 update

    Don't worry Roland. If FP remembers -

    Quote Originally Posted by Fusion_power View Post
    Beekeepers exploited swarms to the maximum back then often doubling or tripling colony counts in a good year.
    Then HE would be older than dirt.
    "Every viewpoint, is a view from a point." - Solomon Parker

  12. #11

    Default Re: Penn State "COMB" project posts Dec 2019 update

    Quote Originally Posted by Fusion_power View Post
    The two most effective mite resistance traits are VSH and mite mauling combined with allogrooming.
    I trust that this part of your post is also just your opinion. Or do you have some sort of citation to support it?
    Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted. - Emerson

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Penn State "COMB" project posts Dec 2019 update

    Then HE would be older than dirt.
    I'm 60 which is getting on up there a bit, but not good enough to go back to the early 1900's.

    beemandan, I'll challenge you the other way. What do you think are the most important mite resistance traits? You don't even need citations, just a good well educated opinion.
    NW Alabama, 50 years, 20 colonies and growing, sideliner, treatment free since 2005, 14 frame square Dadant broodnest

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    Default Re: Penn State "COMB" project posts Dec 2019 update

    LOL FP, I expected better from a man of science like yourself.

    You cannot make a claim, then demand anyone else has to prove / disprove it. It is over to the person making the claim, to prove it.

    I am sure, deep down, you know that.
    "Every viewpoint, is a view from a point." - Solomon Parker

  15. #14

    Default Re: Penn State "COMB" project posts Dec 2019 update

    Quote Originally Posted by Fusion_power View Post
    beemandan, I'll challenge you the other way. What do you think are the most important mite resistance traits? You don't even need citations, just a good well educated opinion.
    The one thing I can say with confidence is that the vsh trait doesn’t confer ‘treatment free’ ability. There is a place for vsh but it doesn’t alone suppress mite reproduction sufficiently to keep colonies from collapse…in my experience.
    In fact, if you think about it, vsh is a biologically expensive varroa reducing trait. By the time the behavior is triggered the colony has already invested all of the resources to produce a worker bee and then the pupa is typically tossed out the door. If the mite population is allowed to grow unchecked….as it will….the vsh behavior can actually speed up the demise of the colony.
    If there were a combination of treatment free traits….and I said ‘if’….their behaviors would have to be triggered developmentally much earlier than the vsh trait.
    In my limited experience any of the actual mite suppressing traits are recessive and only exist in highly inbred bees.
    All….just my opinion.
    Also…at age 69…there are days I feel like I’m 35 and others that I’m older than dirt.
    Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted. - Emerson

  16. #15
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    Default Re: Penn State "COMB" project posts Dec 2019 update

    Szabo's bees of 8 years ago would show fierce allogrooming and cell uncapping when mite counts were up. Still I had one new colony that started to dwindle till I got over the idea of not needing treatment for first year nucs They also were totally not interested in robbing. This behavior in itself may help colonies keep mite counts down. I had a very easy time controlling mites but I was also very isolated from other bees, kept or feral so no prediction of how they would fare in tougher exposure conditions.

    I dont give them much opportunity to show how resistant they could be if I weren't keeping the hammer on the mites!
    Frank

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    Default Re: Penn State "COMB" project posts Dec 2019 update

    Thank you beemandan. I agree with you that the biological cost of VSH is very high. My experience with high VSH bees is that they never build up to a strong enough colony to make a good crop of honey. It is a trait that can be used, but it is just one of the traits needed. You did not mention allogrooming and mite mauling. IME, these are far more useful traits because the adult bees directly attack the mites.

    Alastair, beemandan and I have gone at this before. I might agree with you re precedence, but we have a more civil discussion if beemandan puts his cards on the table.
    NW Alabama, 50 years, 20 colonies and growing, sideliner, treatment free since 2005, 14 frame square Dadant broodnest

  18. #17
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    Default Re: Penn State "COMB" project posts Dec 2019 update

    Guess saying that is one way to avoid answering his question, ha ha.

    I would have just been straight up and said i didn't have any citations.
    "Every viewpoint, is a view from a point." - Solomon Parker

  19. #18
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    Default Re: Penn State "COMB" project posts Dec 2019 update

    Quote Originally Posted by Fusion_power View Post
    Thank you beemandan. I agree with you that the biological cost of VSH is very high. My experience with high VSH bees is that they never build up to a strong enough colony to make a good crop of honey
    When I ran my paired TF vs. Treated experiment (I stopped in frustration in 2018), I used VSH F1 queens from a VP Queens II VSH breeder. I think VP Queens is about as pure, direct from Baton Rouge, as can be commercially purchased.

    My experience with VSH on the coast of California is they got mites and died just like any other bee.

  20. #19
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    Default Re: Penn State "COMB" project posts Dec 2019 update

    Quote Originally Posted by JWChesnut View Post
    I find it important to note that these new queens swarmed prodigiously in 2019. "Despite our best efforts, only 11 PA colonies did not swarm. That means that only about 10% of the colonies made it through the season without a brood break."

    My comment: Feral bees have "reverted" to wild type, and swarm at the drop of a hat. This confers "fitness", swarming making up for the huge losses suffered by mite-ridden bees. It, however, complicates domestic management.
    I am wondering how the results will change over the next year when the genetics from the "feral, TF survivors" queens get "watered" down due to swarming and new queens mating with the "random" drones already in the test apiaries. I suspect the CF hives will start dwindling down even worse.

    I am also wondering what the mite counts and treatment regiments for all of the other hives in the area of these test hives are. I suspect this will have a drastic affect on the outcome of the experiment.

    I am also thinking they have to many different variables in this study. Looking at the management systems table in addition to changing treatments, they are also changing comb size, bottom board type, winter cover type, and winter feeding method. For a good experiment you should limit/only change one variable at a time.

  21. #20
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    Default Re: Penn State "COMB" project posts Dec 2019 update

    The test apiaries are colocated with pre-existing private apiaries, and the participants are drawn from the three treatment groups. Until the results are published (and perhaps not even then) we likely will not know if the participants dominant management mode affected the test hives located with their apiary.

    I've heard a lot of criticism of the "mixed variable" issue. I believe the investigator is interested in testing the "best practices" for each group as specified in roundtable meetings by the participants. I do know Penn State went to great lengths to accomodate every demand to the "Chemical Free" group. (Why 4.9 foundationless was used in those hives, and why the "local feral" queens were given to all participating colonies.). At one point the reason for the "canvas covers" was explained, but I cannot recall that now.

    I worry about "mite bombs" spreading from the 4 CF hives into the other hives in the replication groups, and obscuring the effect of managing the mites in those hives. Of course, in typical "Up is Down" TF denialism, they claim it is because chemically treated hives "cannot resist" mites, it is the chemical hives fault the CF hives got mites.

    You can guess that if the investigators had not accommodated the Chemical Free "experts", we would be hearing criticism "the hives died cause you didn't use local feral survivors" "You didn't use small cell comb", etc etc.


    I posted this the Facebook group I admin, and a "treatment free partisan" said the "Hives died because the commercial packages contaminated the colonies, (even after 12 full months)".


    What I find is the "TF partisans" always have a ready excuse to deny that TF bees die because of TF management, despite volumes of evidence that is precisely what happens.
    Last edited by JWChesnut; 12-05-2019 at 11:38 PM.

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